Australia & Pacifics

Australia, US, UK, Canada criticize Hong Kong mass arrests

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The foreign ministers of Australia, the United States, Great Britain and Canada issued a joint statement Sunday expressing “serious concern” about the arrest of 55 democracy activists and supporters in Hong Kong last week.

The arrests were by far the largest such action taken under a national security law that China imposed on the semi-autonomous territory a little more than six months ago.

“It is clear that the National Security Law is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views,” the four foreign ministers said.

New Zealand central bank says data system hacked

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s central bank said Sunday that one of its data systems has been breached by an unidentified hacker who potentially accessed commercially and personally sensitive information.

A third party file sharing service used by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to share and store sensitive information had been illegally accessed, the Wellington-based bank said in a statement.

Governor Adrian Orr said the breach has been contained. The bank’s core functions “remain sound and operational,” he said.

Australia: Crowd capacity limited to 25 per cent for third India-Australia Test in Sydney

Sydney, Jan 4 (PTI) The crowd limit for the third Test between India and Australia, beginning here from Thursday, has been reduced to 25 per cent of the SCG's seating capacity on advice of the New South Wales government after fresh COVID-19 cases were recorded in the city.

Approximately 9500 people would be allowed to watch the game with the series currently locked at 1-1 following India's remarkable comeback in Melbourne. The SCG has a seating capacity of about 38,000.

Australian states reimpose travel restrictions

Sydney, Jan 3 (AP-PTI) More Australian states and territories are reimposing travel restrictions to prevent the coronavirus spreading from new outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria states

The Australian Capital Territory has shut out non-residents who have been in the northern beaches of Sydney, where the outbreaks are most concentrated, Greater Sydney and other smaller centers, unless they have an exemption.

Australia: NSW Gov under fire for slow response to new COVID-19 outbreak

Sydney, Jan 2 (AP-PTI) Australia's leading medical group says the New South Wales state government has put the rest of the country at risk by its decision not to go "hard and early" in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney's northern beaches, which is suspected to have also caused new cases in neighboring Victoria state.

On Saturday, Victoria recorded 10 new local cases, bringing active cases in the state to 29. Trace testing has linked the new Melbourne coronavirus cluster to the New South Wales outbreak.

Australia changes word in anthem to honor Indigenous people

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia has changed one word in its national anthem to reflect what the prime minister called “the spirit of unity” and the country’s Indigenous population.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on New Year’s Eve announced that the second line of the anthem, Advance Australia Fair, has been changed from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free.”

The change took effect Friday.

Australian State Borders Slam Shut On Sydney As COVID-19 Cluster Grows

SYDNEY, Dec 21 (NNN-AGENCIES) – Australia’s domestic borders have been slammed shut on residents in Sydney, as a COVID-19 outbreak in the city’s north increased by 15 cases to 83 today.

Concerns over how far the cluster has spread prompted differing responses by state leaders across the country.

The state of Western Australia re-implemented a hard border closure for the entire State of New South Wales (NSW) of which Sydney is the capital, turning back anyone from NSW without a legitimate exemption.

Australia state report says quarantine bungled

Melbourne, Dec 21 (AP-PTI) An Australian state government leader on Monday apologised for a bungled hotel quarantine program that led to most of the nation's COVID-19 deaths.

A retired judge who investigated Victoria state's quarantine program for returned travelers criticized the use of private security guards to enforce isolation in Melbourne hotels in May and June.

Australia: Powerful cyclone leaves trail of destruction in parts of Fiji

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A powerful cyclone that tore through Fiji late last week has caused havoc in some areas and left people without shelter and fresh water, Fiji Red Cross said on Sunday.

The death toll from Cyclone Yasa, a top category-five storm that made landfall on Thursday, rose to four, authorities said.

Aerial assessment showed that Bua province on the northern island of Vanua Levu suffered 70% damage and destruction, while the small island of Kia was completely destroyed, Fiji Red Cross Director General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said.

Super cyclone levels Fiji villages

SUVA, Dec 18 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Super cyclone Yasa flattened entire villages as it tore through Fiji, aid agencies said Friday, with one person reported dead as rescue workers raced to the worst-hit communities in isolated areas of Pacific island nation.

Yasa made landfall late Thursday as a top-of-the-scale Category Five cyclone, lashing Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu, with wind gusts of up to 345 kilometres an hour (210 miles an hour).

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